Walking down a major shopping street in Monaco last week after a dentist’s appointment, I looked up and noticed some nice classical Belle Époque architecture from the 1920s. Sadly more and more of these buildings are being knocked down to make way for more modern and functional buildings but it’s important to stay close to the heritage of the area as the past often contains the keys to future success!
It’s sometimes important to take the higher ground! This is the high altitude view I’ll be enjoying quite a lot of over the next 6 weeks, with 12 flights lined up across 3 trips and 5 countries for various business and leisure trips, the first stop being Hong Kong… This particular lovely sky was observed last month just above the French Riviera when landing on the Lufthansa flight from Munich, the second leg of my trip back from Sofia in Bulgaria.
The lovely town of Menton, at the border between France and Italy, is one of the hotspots of the Riviera in February, thanks to the Fête du Citron festival for lemons and oranges (which explains the logo of this blog). I’ll try to go and visit it, for the first time ever, next week before I travel to Asia for some work so watch this space – but in the meantime, this beautiful town has a huge amount to offer, between its great microclimate, the colourful houses, the Cocteau museum and simply the great vibes you can feel just from walking through the streets of the old town! The cliff in this photo marks the border with Italy by the way… Go and explore the delights of the city with the info contained in my article!
The geographical proximity to Italy means that you can get very good pizza and pasta on the French Riviera, almost as good as the real thing… This excellent quattro formaggi totally hit the spot on a chilly February Sunday, I tasted it at the very pleasant Restaurant Quai 29 just opposite the market and close to the sea, I can definitely recommend it as they were nice and generous with the gorgonzola which some restaurants are quite skimpy on!
It’s the start of the week and I’m already thinking of escaping! Actually, one of the great advantages of the French Riviera is that it’s really easy to escape plenty of wonderful places within a short drive, especially in Italy, something I take advantage of a lot. Each time I drive down the motorway, past Menton, into this tunnel and emerge from the tunnel into Italy, I definitely feel like I’m experiencing the dolce vita as one can immediately feel the change of vibe and scenery, even on the motorway. I recall in the 1980s when I came here on holiday crossing the border by train, having a passport check and then changing money from French francs into lira – so much nicer no longer to have all that hassle, I hope that we don’t go back on this in the future as from a purely practical perspective, a united Europe is brilliant!
Place Massena in Nice early on a January morning, bathed in the winter sunshine… The main square of Nice, located just 2 minutes from the Promenade des Anglais, is named after André Massena, duke of Rivoli, a Napoleonic general born in the city in 1758 when it was still part of the Kingdom of Sardinia. Built over the mouth of the Paillon river on the ancient location of the “Pont Neuf”, it achieved its current look in 2007 when it was pedestrianised for the construction of the Nice tram line and is now the major hub of the city and where most major events take place, such as the Carnival in a couple of weeks. Some people dislike the modern sculptures (which are undoubtedly a hub for bird droppings!) but I personally like the cleaner appearance of the current square and feel that it really represents the vibes of this unique city. Read more about Nice in the essential guide of Nice in a nutshell.
Every summer all across the French Riviera coastline, the night sky is lit up by hundreds of spectacular colours and festive bangs to celebrate the balmy weather and the holiday season. The Principality of Monaco is no exception, since pretty much every evening around midnight, a short fireworks display is launched during the Sporting Club summer festival after each concert for the benefit of the viewing public who have paid for the privilege.
But in terms of fireworks, the centrepiece remains the Monaco International Fireworks Competition (officially the “Concours international de feux d’artifice pyromélodiques de Monaco”) which blocks off the whole town for 20 minutes of magic set to synchronised (the organisers hope!) music, highlighting the talents of fireworks artists from all around the world – obviously everything is free!
When enjoying the spectacular landing at Nice airport and approaching from the west, you are bound to notice the two small islands off the coast of Cannes, Ile Sainte Marguerite and Ile Saint Honorat, known collectively as the Iles de Lérins (along with two much smaller and uninhabited islands). Both car free islands offer a huge contrast to the hustle and bustle and frenetic pace of the French Riviera and in this article, I will focus on the smaller and less visited of the two, Ile Saint Honorat. Famed for its historical and still functioning medieval abbey run by Cistercian monks and for the special wines and liqueurs that they produce locally, this small island of just 40 hectares is full of bucolic charm and splendid views and can be visited all year round. Carry on reading this article to experience a total culture shock, just 25 minutes from the port of Cannes and for full photos of my visit, please visit the Ile Saint Honorat album on the French Riviera Blog Facebook page.
The terracotta roofs of Eze Village looking south towards Corsica, note the tiny cross marking the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs (protective coating because it was still technically winter when this photo was taken)
The sparkling Mediterranean sea, blue skies, soaring mountains and beautiful colours – these all represent the true essence of the French Riviera, encapsulated by the stunning village of Eze. A few weeks ago, I decided to take advantage of a spectacularly sunny Sunday afternoon to take a short drive to Eze Village and especially explore the Botanical Garden at its tip, mainly due to the fact that I hadn’t been up there for a while. The experience was beyond my wildest expectations and I was truly overwhelmed by the beauty of the setting and the peaceful atmosphere that filled me with positive energy after an exhausting month travelling around Europe. I therefore figured that I would share with you my feelings, impressions and some photos of this magical afternoon. This slightly more in-depth section on Eze Village can also be combined with the broader article I wrote quite a while ago about the Nietzsche trail so read on to find out more and live the dream, the French Riviera Dream!
The Monaco Grand Prix is probably the biggest and most prestigious regular event on the French Riviera calendar, ahead of the Cannes Film Festival and the Carnival of Nice. Each year, it brings a magical atmosphere to the Principality, really kick-starting the summer season with plenty of private parties on the yachts in the harbour, a very cosmopolitan atmosphere and huge amounts of visitors (and therefore VAT income for the Monegasque government!). Of course, the Grand Prix completely changes the face of the Principality for 3 months, as the roads are full of temporary grandstands, crash barriers, tyres and blockades which are prepared two months in advance and take a month to dismantle afterwards, so there are huge logistics behind the event, the statistics provided by the Automobile Club of Monaco are impressive (see the “presentation” tab). Since the turn of the millennium, there has also been a Historic Grand Prix, which runs every even-numbered year two weeks before the main race, rather interesting to remind spectators of the race’s heritage as the first Monaco Grand Prix was run in 1929, though the first official race in the Formula 1 calendar was in 1950. And in 2015, the first electric Grand Prix, run by FIA under the name “EPrix” took place took two weeks before the F1 event and now also runs every two years.